Mackinack Island Events: Grand Hotel’s 125th anniversary.

Dan Musser, President

1887: Glenfiddich produces its first barrel of whisky; workers begin building the Eiffel Tower; President Grover Cleveland signs into existence the National Institutes of Health. Momentous events one and all, and add to the list the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island opens for business. The Grand celebrates its 125 anniversary in—of course—grand style this summer, so we check in with President Dan Musser to hear about the party fixings.

First, since Mackinac Island is all about the horses, do they get to share in any of the 125th merrymaking?

Well, yes. We built a new 10,000-square-foot stable in conjunction with the Chamber family’s Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, the people who take care of our 16 horses. Carleton Varney [legendary designer who did the famously festive Americana interiors at the Grand] helped pick the colors of the stable, so you will definitely see the stable from the street. We’re also putting carriages from my great uncle’s carriage collection and some of the Chamber family’s carriage collection out on the street. We think people will really enjoy seeing 100-plus-year-old carriages with hackney horses pulling guests from the dock to the hotel.

We’ve heard there’s a very large cake involved.

Yes, on July 10, the day of the birthday, we will have a 125-foot-long cake on the porch, and whoever is there that day, guest or day visitor, is welcome to have a piece. The following weekend is the big celebration of the anniversary. [See full schedule at]

In today’s world, where you’re competing against amped up properties like theme parks and totally wired hotels, is the historical venue a strength or a challenge?

There’s no question the historical thing helps. But we have to keep an eye on the ball. We are putting big screen TVs in the rooms. We are getting new beds. We are thinking of putting in a zip line. We have encouraged families to come to us during the last couple of decades and that has worked, and we have to continue to look ahead for that customer.

How much does it play on your mind that you are carrying on this family legacy, that your great uncle began, that your father ran?

I totally respect what my great uncle and my father have done. My great uncle somehow got through the Great Depression with this thing and the Second World War. My dad took over a pretty tired facility, so he struggled upgrading it, making repairs, getting the color in the place. The feel you see today my dad created. Since I took over, I have tried to focus on families. This is important to the families coming here. They have saved up. They are bringing their families here. We have to create a positive experience, and it is fun to do that. I get to meet a wide variety of guests. I get to work with a wide variety of staff members with different skill sets and different world experiences. And I get to do that in a beautiful setting.

This was a feature in the July 2012 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine, to order a copy click here!